Breaking Free From Your Lunch Break

Humans need to keep moving to stay healthy. We weren’t designed to sit in front of a screen for 8+ hours each day–and studies have shown how damaging it is, not just to our posture, but to stress levels and emotional wellbeing! Many modern office spaces see their ‘break-out space’ as a critical factor in combatting this, as a way of allowing their employees to get away from their stressors during the working day.


As well as a place for meetings and informal catch-ups–a well-designed break-out space makes sense from an organisational perspective too. It creates a place for stimulating conversation, with impromptu discussions, often leading to the best ideas, which then spread to support projects within the workplace. The impact of a break-out space is incredibly influential and should not be dismissed as ‘just a lunch spot’.


Still, many modern offices forget their workforce will function better after a break, with the notion often being lost during the busy working day where time pressures are felt. However, by using foresight, and encouraging a time-out–in a well-designed space–productivity will increase, as time away from the screen offers employees a time to refresh–returning more alert and relaxed, the more consideration put into the break-out space, the more productive and alert a company’s workforce will be. And, as a company’s office space will say a lot about the company, creating a variety of spaces, like a break-out area–companies give themselves the best opportunity to retain key staff and attract great new talent. This could include filling your break-out area with comforts from the home, which offer a connection with space–reminding staff to switch off. Other ideas include bringing in elements from the natural environment, timber benches, warm lighting and cosy furniture. They all combine together to provide a relaxed feel, full of comfort and relaxation.


So while working hard is essential, it’s just as necessary to take a few moments from your day to enjoy your break–which is precisely why ’Take Back The Lunch Break’ day was created. Whether these moments come in the form of exercise, getting close to nature, seeing a friend or enjoy a meal–does your workplace have a break-out area that invests in their employee’s wellbeing?

Facilities Management: The Lifeblood Of Great Workplace Design’

As workplace technology evolves, so as does the role of Facilities Management. Rewind to 2010, the term ‘co-working’ – where different companies operate within the same workspace – began to circulate. Since then, its impact on the FM industry has been significant.

As we celebrate World Facilities Management day, where does the future of FM lie?

The essence of quality office design, much like FM, requires a detailed understanding of each site’s variables. As such, the relationship between the two disciplines should be streamlined; the FM team understands the intricacies of management, staff, company structures and lease arrangements, while the architectural team should take this knowledge and translate into a practical, flexible, cost-effective space that is both easy to maintain and attractive to potential tenants.


How can Facilities Managers shape the future of contemporary workplace design at various stages?



The Three Designs


Facilities Managers are usually very aware of design considerations regarding accessibility, usability and universal design.


Accessible design ensures that buildings, products and services are usable for staff and visitors alike. Physical disabilities such as dependence on a wheelchair, lumbar problems, sensitivity to light and noise should all be considered by the design team. The FM can help by highlighting specific needs early on.

Usability – maximising every m2 of the floor as possible, making every £ spent count. Are acoustics suitable for the business need? Are the rooms simple to reconfigure? And is there sufficient space for those stackable chairs? Sounds obvious, but without knowing the final end use these are design risks that can be eliminated.


Universal design – are we creating a space that will make guests feel clear on way finding, make them feel welcomed and calm upon arrival, and impressed upon leaving?


Getting the blend of these elements is crucial – not only to aid streamlining of an organisation but for the wellbeing and attitude of the building’s occupants.


The Construction Phase


By involving Facilities Managers in elements of the operations and specification of a project, there is an opportunity to integrate this knowledge into its delivery.  As companies shift toward renewable energy sources and energy-efficient design, we’re confident their input will increase too.


Collaborative Spaces & Flexibility


Co-working as a business concept has transformed office design – and it’s here to stay. While a collaborative space can lead to an increase morale and creativity, businesses and FM’s must balance the relationship of collaborative spaces and individual working areas.

To adapt to the quick pace of transformation in the workplace, facilities managers need to understand how three particular types of flexibility can influence a space.


  • Contractual Flexibility: Employed staff could be outsourced, on fixed contracts, casual or full time – so the amount of people in the company’s workforce is likely to be quite fluid and may change day-to-day


  • Time Flexibility: Employee working hours could vary and be based upon the preference of employee. This could mean a more significant shift to evening staff or early morning. FM teams should cater for this in the management of space.


  • Locational Flexibility: Now more than ever, more employees will likely have the freedom to work from home, in satellite offices or client premises. FM teams should be wary of this and account for a more significant shift toward this in the future.




At SKK we are firm believers that craftsmanship, like charity, begins at home, and as an architectural and design practice we wanted our offices to be a show case of what we can do for our clients.  An important aspect of our work is the conversion or repurposing of existing premises, especially those of architectural merit or with period features worth preserving.

So, when the opportunity came to acquire Hatfield Heath Mill we were presented with our dream project.  The Mill has been at the heart of local village life and history since it was built – as a brewery – in the mid 1800s, when it malted barley and brewed ale and served such local inns as The Stag and The Thatchers on the Heath, the Duke’s Head at Broad Oak and the Crown and Queen’s Head at Sheering, amongst many others.

The first repurposing of the Mill came about towards the end of the 19th century when the rise of the big breweries swallowed up the smaller ones or run them out of business, as was the case with Hatfield Heath Brewery, as it was then known.

The Mill was sold by Sworders of Bishop’s Stortford to the Edwards family and converted to a steam corn mill, which it was to remain, under various owners, until the 1960s.  An extract from the 1883 sales catalogue gives the social flavour of the times.  The property was advertised as ‘a substantial brick-built brewery … together with commodious genteel freehold residence most desirably built in close proximity thereto, and five cottages with large gardens for workers placed at a convenient distance therefrom’.

The Mill was sold for the princely sum of £860, a snip compared to the price paid for it by SKK in 2012, when it was placed on the market for offers in excess of £350,000.  And that was just for the shell of the building, which had been gutted after several iterations including use as a warehouse, a manufacturing unit for a lighting company and an educational publishing company.

Since its last occupier left in the 1990s, the building had stood empty and was allowed to deteriorate, so the offer from SKK to acquire and renovate the Mill was warmly received by Hatfield Parish Council, especially as we undertook to preserve the historic merits of the building as listed by Essex County Council’s Archaeological Department.

Brick faced and timber clad on the upper storey, the exterior of the Mill is substantially unaltered, including the distinctive overhanging lucan for the winding hoist, and the hoist itself, originally used for lifting sacks of grain to the upper storey.

The interior has been renovated from the ground up, with the central staircase repositioned to the corner of the building to better accommodate open planned architectural stations, offices and meeting rooms, reception, refreshment and toilet areas.

The objective has been to incorporate a modern design within the original structure whilst retaining such period features as oak beams, posts and roof trusses.  We invite you to judge the success of the project for yourself by visiting us and taking the ‘grand tour’.  And if you’re in the market for a renovation project yourself, you can trust us to bring a sympathetic eye to it.

Have a look at our case study by clicking here


Do you say yes or no to department demands during the refit or reconstruction of a new office?  As architectural designers we understand the challenges facing FMs and have worked with many to find the right balance of needs versus wants – before, during and after a project (when an FMs work really begins!).

Key to the whole business is finding the best CMMS (Computer Maintenance Management System) software.  Here is our guide to finding the right one for you.

  • Define your goals and create an action plan to meet them. You can then prioritise the right features and tools to choose the most suitable software.


  • Maintenance is a priority. Ensure your system can track all your assets and notify you when inspections, servicing and replacement needs must be met.


  • Get the team on board. Welcome their input.  It will increase staff buy-in and highlight any issues that may arise during the procurement process.


  • Reporting is critical. Ensure your system reports the data you need, say to create reports for management analysis or generate procurement lists.

  • Operational ease. Intelligent software will allow you to manage workloads, staffing and costs associated with time sensitive or tightly budgeted projects.


  • Day to day management. Look for automated alerts and smart systems.  Pop-ups and emails remind you of imminent tasks, or system failures.


  • Working remotely. Being able to access the system from your phone or tablet helps flag issues that may arise when you’re away from the office.

Finding the right solution for your business may be off-the-shelf or tailor-made.  Either way, research both internally with your team and externally with providers is critical to getting it right the first time.


Olympic House, Switzerland, the headquarters of the Olympic Committee, meets the gold standard of sustainability in office building.  In this profile we highlight the elements that make it outstanding – elements that we at SKK aim to incorporate in commercial projects for our clients.

Designed by Danish architects 3XN, Olympic House has been built with 95% of the former administrative buildings reused or recycled.  In a move that has considerably reduced their carbon footprint, all 500 staff of the Olympics Committee are now located under one roof.


Five Olympic Rings

The design of Olympic House embodies five key elements: symbolism, integration, flexibility, collaboration and sustainability. The overall shape is harmonious and graceful and is inspired by the movement of an athlete whilst encapsulating each element within its framework.


Situated with the backdrop of Lausanne parklands, the internal configuration is set out to maximise views of the beautiful surroundings.  The stunning central staircase visually links all levels and encourages you to walk just a little further to take in the views rather than taking the lift.



A New Beginning

With only 14 columns across the entire structure, every inch of space has been maximised.  The open plan spaces, transparency and shared spaces encourage communication, facilitation and interaction as well as being aesthetically pleasing.

Even the furniture was a source of innovation and inspired engineering.  The Olympic Committee pushed the market to its limits to find new ways of working for this iconic building.


Smart Stats for Olympic House

  • 80% of construction costs were spent with local companies
  • 95% of construction waste was recycled
  • 35% reduction in energy consumption compared to a new standard office building
  • 60% reduction in municipal water consumption to a new standard office building
  • 95% of former administrative materials were reused or recycled
  • Awarded 3 Sustainable Certifications: SNBS, Minergie, LEED
  • The building has 2500 m2 of vegetated roof


Moving is a significant upheaval for any organisation.

As the Facilities Manager it’s your responsibility to ensure a smooth transition for all.

At SKK we’ve worked with many FMs and understand the challenges you face.

Here are our top ten tips to help make your move go as smoothly as possible.


  • Insist upon a clear vision of what the business needs now and in the future and provide as much information as possible to the design team


  • Get approval on key issues from senior decision-makers. Budget and key dates need to be agreed in principle as early as possible


  • Factor in hidden costs like move management, storage and dilapidations. Consider possible disruption to your core business due to IT downtime etc.


  • Involve security, IT, mechanical and electrical consultants at an early stage. Their requirements need to be coordinated by your architectural designer


  • Take lease length into account when investing in new infrastructure and IT. Consider a reduced spend on items that can’t easily be transitioned forward


  • To get staff on board with the move have your architectural team put together a high level visual presentation or a virtual reality walkthrough


  • Manage your own time effectively. Consider outsourcing practical management tasks to your architectural team as the lead consultant


  • A move is an opportunity to break with tradition. Work with your design team to embrace new ways of working and create multifunctional spaces


  • Share your staff wish list with the design team at an early stage. The earlier the implementation of design intent, the less cost is involved


  • Be clear on lines of communication between the design and construction teams to prevent you becoming the point of contact during the build


As architectural designers, our job at SKK is to help you create spaces that work in both form and function.  We understand the challenges faced by many FMs, and so are well placed to help you make a seamless transition into your new offices.